The leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, has reportedly died after fighting in recent days between the group and members of the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) in the Sambisa forest, one of the strongholds of his organization in Nigeria, according to several media in the African country.
Shekau was reportedly killed on Wednesday after ISWA stormed the Sambisa forest with artillery trucks and gained access to the so-called ‘Timbuktu triangle’, as reported by the Nigerian portal HumAngle, which is run by Ahmad Salkida, a Boko Haram expert who has had access to first-hand information on the group in the past.
The clashes resulted in the deaths of several of Shekau’s bodyguards as well as Boko Haram members, after which the group’s leader met with the attackers, who ordered him to cede power and for his militiamen to swear allegiance to Islamic State.
However, Boko Haram sources quoted by this media have stressed that Shekau, who was wearing an explosive vest, committed suicide after refusing these demands, killing those present at the meeting, without it being clear for now whether they included senior ISWA officials.
Shekau’s death has not been officially confirmed by either Nigeria or either of the two groups involved in the fighting.
Shekau has been leader of Boko Haram since 2009, following the death of the group’s founder Mohammed Yusuf, and his death has been announced on several occasions in the past. Although he swore allegiance in 2015 to then Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, he was removed from the position, resulting in the split of the group and the emergence of ISWA.
While the two groups have engaged in sporadic clashes in recent years, fighting has been on the rise in recent weeks, something HumAngle blames in part on pressure against ISWA from the Nigerian Army’s shelling of its positions.